Skip to main content

Full text of "Chicago Tribune [1989-12-31]"

See other formats


Chicago Tribune  Sunday, December 31, 1989 
Section 14  Page 7 


Looking back at the decade of the '80s from a coin buff's point of view 

By Roger Boye 

This week's column reviews 
numismatic headlines of 
the 1980s--a decade that 
was loaded with thrills for 
coin buffs. 

* Gold prices hit an all-time 
record of $850 per troy ounce 
and silver, $50.35 per troy ounce 
in January, 1980, when the Hunt 
brothers of Texas tried to corner 
the silver market. Nationwide, 
thousands of people sold their sil-
ver coins and silverware, forcing 
many coin dealers to hire extra 
staff to help service their cus-
tomers. During part of 1980, 
coin shops paid more than 20 
times face value for so-called 
"junk silver coins." 

* Bureaucrats in Washington 
discontinued production of Susan 
B. Anthony dollar coins in late 
1981 after a three-year experi-
ment that flopped. Said Utah 
Sen. Jake Garn about the circula-
ting dollar coin that failed to cir-
culate: "Sometime in the future 
we should have a Susan B. An-
thony dollar, but one of a size 
and shape distinguishable from 
the quarter." 

* After a quarter-century 
hiatus, Uncle Sam launched six 
commemorative coin programs 
in eight years (1982-89), raising 
millions of dollars for the 
training of U.S. Olympic 
athletes, repairs to the Statue of 
Liberty and other causes. The 
government had not issued a 
commemorative coin since 1954. 

* The threat of rising copper 
prices forced officials in 1982 to 
begin making Lincoln cents out 
of zinc plated with copper. Al-
most all one-cent coins minted 
since the Civil War had con-
tained 95 percent copper. Still, 
the zinc Lincolns looked like 
their nearly all-copper cousins, 
thanks to the copper plating. 

* In 1986, the United States 
Mint produced the country's first 
"bullion coins" for sale to pre-
cious-metal investors. The gold 
and silver "American Eagles" 
were an overnight sensation, with 
demand for the coins outpacing 
production for several weeks after 
the debut. Fortune Magazine 
named the gold Eagle the coun-
try's top new product of 1986, 
beating out a Bruce Springsteen 
album and the Lazer Tag toy. 

* An 1804 U.S. silver dollar 
sold for $990,000 in July, 1989, 
the most ever paid for a single 
coin at public auction. The sale 
in a Chicago hotel broke a 1979 
record of $725,000 bid on a gold 
Brasher doubloon. Experts pre-
dicted the new standard would be 
surpassed in the early 1990s. 

* A rare-coin limited partner-
ship formed by Kidder, Peabody 
& Co. in early 1989 grew to 
more than $30 million, and a 
major brokerage firm studied 
whether to sell rare coins to in-
dividuals through its broker net-
work. Investing in rare coins 
began to catch Wall Street's 
fancy, thanks in part to the 
growth since 1986 of companies 
that grade rare coins and encase 
the coins in hard plastic "slabs." 
By decade's end, some investors 
were so confident in the work of 
the grading services that they 
bought slabbed coins on a sight 
unseen basis. 

* In the summer of 1989 a 
treasure-trove of rare U.S. gold 
coins and gold bars was found in 
the remains of a ship that sank 
off the South Carolina coast in 
1857. The discovery of the SS 
Central America could rank as 
one of the largest such "gold 
strikes" in U.S. history. 

*** 

Error coins will be discussed at 
the Jan. 10 meeting of the Chica-
go Coin Club. For more informa-
tion about the meeting, write to 
the club at P.O. Box 2301, Chi-
cago, Ill. 60690.